Celine Schillinger, the Senior Director of Stakeholder Engagement for Sanofi Pasteur, calls social media her greatest ally in her personal life and her career. Schillinger works to disrupt the pharmaceutical world by embracing social networks and digital thinking in projects like her Break Dengue global awareness campaign. She hopes to convince the industry that regulations and social media can endure happy marriage. She also says that she’s working to unleash change within her company, too, jostling for gender-equality in it’s leadership. We caught up with Schillinger during TEDxBedminster, where she shared best practices from the Break Dengue campaign and talked about what has driven her in her career so far.
Take us through some of your key professional milestones.
I studied communication and started off my career in that field; however, I soon realized that companies treated communication as a mere garnishment and I wanted to be in the “meats and potatoes” of development. I decided to challenge myself and move to Vietnam, and made my way to Sanofi thirteen years ago. The pharmaceutical industry was foreign to me, but I relished making impact on people’s well-being.
How did you become an agent for gender-equality change within Sanofi?
After being with the organization for over a decade, I realized that my female colleagues and I were missing out on key opportunities compared to my male counterparts. I addressed this systemic issue not as a matter of fairness but as a fault in business efficiency. 80-90% of healthcare decisions are made by women and the company leadership needed to reflect the diversity of our stakeholders. The issue resonated with people and created positive noise, eventually garnering attention and change from leadership.
How did this accomplishment mature into your current Dengue Awareness project?
The women’s initiative campaign taught me the power of bringing people together for a common cause. We realized that people were talking about dengue best practices on social media – but they were in monologues. Many people mistake social media for an additional platform to distribute information; we used the network to actively listen to our diverse stakeholders. There was a black hole of ideas and engagement, and no collaboration; Break Dengue campaign served as a petri-dish to connect and breed these ideas, and we were successful because our platform was not self-serving. Initially, the leadership was only interested in creating a campaign around our product or vaccination category – I championed for a hub that was bigger and engaged with all stakeholders, from our competitors, customers, entrepreneurs, healthcare workers, policy makers, etc.
Why should others join the social media bandwagon?
Social media has been a defining factor in my growth. Sheryl Sandberg said that in meetings, women often feel intimidated by men’s power postures; however, in social media, one voice equals one voice. Just after hearing this, I created my twitter account. You cannot join social media expecting immediate gratification; it takes time, investment and intense active listening.
On that note, the ALS bucket challenge was a social media phenomenon. What are the lessons for entrepreneurs/start-ups?
I’m as amazed as everyone, because other worthy causes have created similar, fun campaigns. I believe there is a share of luck and good timing, which is not something you can always plan for. I believe the lesson here for entrepreneurs is the ability to leverage chance and be agile to ecosystem trends. As an entrepreneur, if you’re not on social media, you’re dead! And you cannot use the platform to simply broadcast your offerings; instead be a supporting actor and use it to network, monitor competitors and listen to your eco-system’s needs.
How would you encourage other women to pursue leadership within their organizations? And what’s next for Celine?
I was blessed with good education, environment and upbringing, but keep aiming higher and never become content with what is handed to you. I see smart women self-hindering themselves by being afraid to speak up: try, fail, fail better. As women, we unknowingly confirm stereotypes and negate our worth; it is a disservice to ourselves, the organization and the future. Personally, I am driven by disruption and continued learning – I was lucky enough to make an impact on dengue and gender balance within my organization. Now, I’m trying to impact the world of work – ambitious, perhaps, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This interview is part of our fall series on women in medtech. Check back in for weekly interviews with women in the medical technology field. Do you know someone who’d be a good fit for this series? Let us know – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shreya specializes in health communications and is a copywriter for an advertising agency. She was previously at Bayer Healthcare, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
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